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Starbucks May Soon Change This Major Policy

Another major pivot in the chain's bathroom rule may be on the horizon.

Starbucks has seen a lot of scrutiny in the past year. From its employees unionizing to the backlash to its price increases–the coffee chain has had no shortage of controversy to deal with.

But one major controversial incident from 2018 brought about a significant change in the chain's bathroom use policy, which the company is now said to be reconsidering, according to Starbucks' chief executive Howard Schultz.

The coffee chain had instated the open-to-all bathroom policy in 2018, after the arrest of two Black men in one of its Philadelphia stores who were trying to use the bathroom without making a purchase. The change was a big one for the company at the time, stemming from the public backlash to the incident.

The response eventually led Starbucks to close over 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores for a half day of racial bias education and training for all of its employees.

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However, Schultz said the new policy is now putting its baristas in jeopardy. A new rule the chain is considering would attempt to limit the number of non-customers who come into Starbucks locations.

Schultz called the open-to-all bathroom policy an "issue of just safety," pointing to a growing mental health problem that makes it difficult for Starbucks managers to safely do their jobs.

"We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people," Schultz said at The New York Times' DealBook D.C. policy forum. "I don't know if we can keep our bathrooms open."

In April of 2018, two black men walked into a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia to use the bathroom. An employee refused the request and asked them to leave, eventually calling the police, which led to their arrest on the grounds of trespassing. A video was taken of the incident and shared on Twitter. The public outcry was swift and pegged the manager's actions as discriminatory.

Kevin R. Johnson, the company's chief executive at the time, called the incident at the Philadelphia store a "reprehensible outcome" in a public apology letter issued shortly afterward. The manager involved was fired.

This is the first time Schultz has addressed the company's bathroom policies since rejoining the company as its interim chief executive in April. He originally left the role 13 years ago. Currently, the company is facing allegations of intimidation and retaliation against employees unionizing within the company.

Amber Lake
Amber Lake is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! and has a degree in journalism from UNF in Jacksonville, Florida. Read more about Amber